The Merry Merchant and the Sad Antonio

Photo courtesy of Allison Stock Photography

Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing the closing night performance of The Merchant of Venice, staged by The Shakespeare Forum.  It was a delightful production, and the cast did a great job making all the jokes (and there are many) land effectively, without undercutting the heartbreaking trial scene (I cried).  The humor of the background characters set apart the two antagonists, Shylock and Antonio, who are some of the only characters who never laughed joyfully.What struck me most about t … [Read more...]

The School Where Bullies Ask for Help


The American Prospect has a beautiful feature on a high school that started trying out restorative justice, instead of defaulting to suspensions.  Here's the basic approach: The cornerstone of KCAPA’s program is the “restorative circle.” Drawing inspiration from the American Indian practice of the talking circle, in which a totem is passed around to signal the opportunity to speak, these meetings are convened for all kinds of reasons, from gauging students’ moods to addressing acts of serious mi … [Read more...]

Prisoners are Calling. Who’s Answering?


Today, I'm over at First Things to talk about prisons, communities, and cell phones. Until cellphones made it trivial for a well-connected prisoner to reach the outside world, jailhouse policy has usually been more focused on information flowing the opposite direction. Texas is one among many states to have lengthy lists of books banned from prison libraries—Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, and Jenna Bush are among the many authors whose works have been proscribed.Jailhouse librarians and rev … [Read more...]

On Palm Sunday, Blood Will Have Blood

From a Wesleyan production of Richard III

On Palm Sunday in Catholic churches, the Passion narrative is read aloud.  The whole congregation is on our feet while the priest reads the part of Christ, and two lectors pitch in.  One of them handles the descriptions and narration and the other takes on the parts of each person who speaks along (Peter, Pilate, etc).  The lines spoken by the crowd are assigned to the laity all together.And our lines are mostly brutal.We are the ones who have to call for Christ's death, all saying in un … [Read more...]

A Lens on Killing and Forgiveness


This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, and, over at The New York Times Magazine, a photographer has put together a series of portraits of Rwandans who have reconciled with the people who killed their friends and families. The people who agreed to be photographed are part of a continuing national effort toward reconciliation and worked closely with AMI (Association Modeste et Innocent), a nonprofit organization. In AMI’s program, small groups of Hutus and Tutsis are co … [Read more...]

Forgiving is Not Endorsing


Before he passed away, Pope John Paul II entrusted a number of his personal letters to Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, his secretary, and asked him to burn the letters after the pontiff was dead. Not only did Cardinal Dziwisz fail to carry out the pope’s wishes, he is now releasing the edited papers as a book.The Cardinal is releasing the private notes because he finds them spiritually lovely, not because there’s some very exciting secret or scandal contained within. But, for me, the most int … [Read more...]

Waiting for Enemies to Die

martin luther king

There's an expression I've heard in the gay rights movement as a kind of rallying cry, "Every time you see an ambulance go by, it's either a supporter of gay rights being born, or an opponent dying."  I don't cite this line to single out the gay rights movement; I think most of us feel this way when we're in a fight.  For an example on the other side, look at the way Mark Shea used to call me and people like me 'brownshirts.'  A brownshirt isn't someone you negotiate with, it's someone you ne … [Read more...]